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Aramco Speeds up Manifa, Eyes Full Output by 2015

Source: Reuters 5/18/2011, Location: Middle East

State oil giant Saudi Aramco plans to accelerate the development of its 900,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Manifa oilfield and reach full capacity by early 2015, an Aramco executive said.

Aramco had said in its 2009 annual review the project would not pump at full volume until January 2024, as the company looked to cut costs across its energy projects following the oil price slump in 2008 in the wake of global economic slowdown.

But in 2009, Aramco's chief executive Khalid al-Falih said the company decided to push on with the project despite the fall in oil prices then taking place.

The executive, speaking at an industry conference, said Aramco aimed to begin pumping from Manifa and reach 500,000 bpd by mid-2013, in line with the original start-up timeline, but added full production would be achieved by early 2015, about 9 years earlier than the revised plans.

"Aramco...decided to accelerate Manifa project...So far 96 wells have been drilled," the executive said at the conference.

The oil firm plans to boost the number of rigs deployed in Manifa from 8 in April to 24 by year-end, he added.

Aramco is undertaking the Manifa project, with a price tag close to $16 billion, to compensate for declines at other fields rather than to boost capacity.

Heavy, sour Manifa crude would be processed at two new refineries due to come online from 2013 onwards. One is in Jubail, on the Gulf coast in a joint-venture with France's Total and one is in Yanbu, on the Red Sea coast.

The world's top oil exporter plans to boost the number of oil rigs at its disposal by 28 percent to maintain its oil output capacity of 12.5 million bpd it has long said is in place.

The disruption of oil exports from Libya, concerns about the supply impact of unrest in the Middle East and Africa, and the weaker dollar have sent crude to the highest level since 2008, with Brent LCOc1 topping $127 a barrel in April.

The Manifa project, in shallow waters off the kingdom's east coast north of Jubail, includes building a causeway and drilling islands as well as offshore platforms.

It also requires a new facility to separate gas and oil, another for handling and stabilising crude, and a gas gathering and compression plant.

Aramco mothballed Manifa in 1985 because of the heaviness of its crude and decided to develop it in 2007 when global oil demand was soaring.

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